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Committee: IPS moves all hunger strikers to prisons with field hospitals

May 17, 2017 8:57 P.M. (Updated: May 20, 2017 7:27 P.M.)
Some of Palestine's most high-profile prisoners. From left to right: Fouad Shubaki, Nael Barghouthi, Karim Yunis, Ahmad Saadat, Marwan Barghouthi
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Head of Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe released a statement Wednesday evening, saying that all hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners, whose numbers are estimated to be around 1,300, have been transferred to three Israeli prisons "due to their proximity to Israeli hospitals."

Qaraqe said that all prisoners participating in the mass “Freedom and Dignity” hunger strike, which entered its 31st day on Wednesday, were transferred from across dozens of Israel’s prisons and concentrated into southern Israel’s Beersheba prison, northern Israel’s Shatta prison, and central Israel’s Ramla -- all of which have in-prison field hospitals that were set up at the beginning of the strike.

“This step indicates the seriousness of the health conditions of the hunger strikers,” Qaraqe said.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), however, told Ma’an that only the hunger-striking prisoners from the Negev desert-area Ketziot and Nafha prisons had been transferred to Beersheba prison, “in order to be closer to central Israel, in the case that they need to be treated at a hospital.”

When asked if prisoner’s were being treated in civilian hospitals, the spokesperson said that the prisoners were currently being treated at the prisons’ field hospitals, but upon recommendation from doctors, would be transferred to a civilian hospital if necessary.

Since the hunger strike began, Israeli authorities established field hospitals for Palestinian prisoners, raising alarm that hunger strikers, who have faced severe health deteriorations in recent days, would be force fed en masse -- violating international standards of medical ethics and international law that regard the practice as inhumane or even a form of torture.

A statement released Tuesday by the media committee established to support the strike warned that striking detainees have “entered a critical health condition,” marked by chronic vomiting, vision impairment, fainting, and an average weight loss of 20 kilograms.

Hunger-striking prisoners have also been prohibited from receiving family visits outright, and face continuous arbitrary prison transfers in an IPS attempt to break up the strike.

On Monday, IPS moved 36 hunger-striking prisoners from Ofer prison to a so-called field hospital at Hadarim prison, according to the media committee.

The committee reiterated concerns on Monday about the field clinics, saying that “in these clinics, the role of doctors resembles the role of jailers who offer all kinds of food to the sick detainees and offer to provide medical treatment in return for ending the strike,” the statement declared, denouncing the field hospitals as unfit and ill-equipped to provide medical care, and merely just another section for holding and pressuring the detainees to break their strikes.

Participants in the strike have been refusing food and vitamins since the strike began on April 17, drinking only a mixture of salt and water as sustenance.

Hunger-striking prisoners are calling for an end to the denial of family visits, the right to pursue higher education, appropriate medical care and treatment, and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention -- imprisonment without charge or trial -- among other demands for basic rights.

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